By Donna Williamson
Roses are blooming everywhere and seem to have benefited from our weird winter/spring weather. Being a rose fan in the mid-Atlantic is usually not easy but I have help from Dr. Buck and the beneficial insects eating all those aphids. It’s so amazing – one day I will see hundreds of aphids on the new growth of my roses, the next morning they are gone!
Dr. Griffith Buck from Iowa wanted to develop shrub roses that were tough, beautiful, and fragrant so folks could enjoy roses without fretting. As his hybridizing continued, he would plant the best candidates outside of his greenhouse at Iowa State University. In the landscape, the roses received no additional care. If they could not resist black spot or powdery mildew, their leaves would fall and they would not have the strength to get through the winter. The roses were named only if they survived well. Buck would often give them away to friends. Since Dr. Buck’s death in 1991, the roses have been recognized as valuable contributors to the landscape. A few years ago, his rose, “Quietness,” was named the best rose by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Fans of Dr. Buck’s roses collect them and delight when a new one is found in someone’s yard and brought into production.
If you want to grow roses without chemical assistance, look at the Buck roses. Applejack, Dr. Buck’s first hybrid was named for the strong apple fragrance of the leaves. The other varieties are shrub roses that bloom now, in July to greet the Japanese beetles, and then magnificently in the fall.
By the way, I cut off all rose blossoms when the Japanese beetles arrive and they move off to other, more tantalizing places. Those that remain can be easily dropped in a pail of soapy water – they do not swim. I will let our native caterpillars eat my roses, but not the alien Japanese beetles!
For additional information and photos of the different roses see www.ag.iastate.edu or Google ‘Buck roses’ for information on mail order sources. They will likely be small when you get them in the mail – give them a sunny location, good drainage, and careful watering the first year (about an inch a week – use a rain gauge). Don’t get crazy with fertilizers – let them establish without pushing them. They will get better each year and by year three, will be wonderful!
Donna Williamson is a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. Author of The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low-Maintenance Gardening in Virginia, contact Donna at dwfinegardening.com, 540-877-2002.